Spring is the time to reorganize your wine cellar now the Christmas drinking season is over, in preparation for arrival of the next batch of en primeur deliveries of the latest release Burgundies (around now) and clarets (in summer). That case of 1999 La Tache really needs to be finished; the 2012 Richebourg, is arriving…
But what if you don’t have a wine cellar? Perhaps some of your growing wine collection is spread between the cellars of various wine merchants, some of whom have eluded your memory entirely and will resurface after your death like a dormant Swiss bank account.
A little more resides in the dank cellar of the country cottage owned by the uncle of the girlfriend you split up with back in 2013 and now don’t know what to do about.
More of your fine wine is located in the area of your new built dockside apartment nearest the window, which you reckon is the coolest place. There are a few bottles of Meursault Poruzots stuffed into the back of your Smeg. The built-in wine rack that came with the kitchen was once filled with your prized labels to show off with, like that amphora-aged Anthyiterra from Oregon you bought in San Francisco last year. Then a wine-geek friend told you a kitchen with its dramatic temperature variations was the worst place in the house to store wine, so it is now filled with bottles of Highland Spring and the wines are now stewing slowly in a cardboard box in your study.
If that sounds familiar, welcome to the world of wine loving in the 21st century, where brutally accelerating property prices for anyone who lives in an urban Centre mean that, while we have never had a deeper or wider choice of fine wine, we have never had fewer places to store it in. And that bodes ill for all of us in five, ten or 30 years, as we open the great bottles of today and find that they are beautifully packaged vinegar. For just one day of poor storage will kill a wine.
I have learned this the hard way over the past 25 years. Here are some tips:
Don’t store your wine by a French window in the hope it will keep it cool.
My first case of truly fine wine (Chateau Margaux from the lovely 1985 vintage) was stored this way; when I opened the first bottle a few years later it tasted like a blend of Worcestershire sauce and supermarket Balsamic. Temperature fluctuation was to blame.
Don’t trust cases containing 11 out of 12 bottles being sold at auction.
Not that I would have done that (the Margaux was used for cooking)
Don’t store wine in your kitchen
It’s too hot. Or anywhere where it’s warm enough to live.
Don’t automatically trust every country house cellar.
One such cellar I entrusted my wines to had a small window which let in direct sunlight in summer. The ensuing greenhouse effect resulted in a lot of ruined Riesling and catastrophic claret.
Do store your wine in your merchant’s customer reserve, or, much cooler, your own account at Octavian
The world’s biggest bonded warehouse, in a former mine in Wiltshire. While this option ensures perfect provenance, it’s also rather unemotional.
Wine, for me, is like art or a classic car: I like to see it, stroke the labels, and imagine the future memories to be gleaned from a bottle in five or 20 years. What will my life be like when I open this 2005 Chateau Haut Brion? A wine cellar is a place of escape, and needs to be near.
Octavian (or other bonded warehouses like LCB’s Vinotheque) ensure perfect storage conditions but it can’t fix what’s broken, and you don’t get to see your wine unless you visit and inspect. Is the case damaged? The labels? Is the case original? Is there an indication it is ex-Asia or US-stock, possibly damaged in transit?
What are the levels like on the bottles? Has the case been opened and patched together, indicating loose bottles inserted into a box, dressed up as “original carton” (a wine trade trick)? You have to make the journey.
Do build your own wine cellar if you can.
If I had a large house, I would dig down and build a EuroCave-designed, temperature- and humidity-controlled wine room, with proper racking (not just bins: makes bottles horrible to see and remove), tasting table and sink. A sink shows you are serious, as you can hold a tasting without having to ask the staff for fresh glasses. If you go down this road, ensure you do it properly; an improperly sealed, poorly laid-out wine room is the worst option of all. There’s an opportunity cost also: a celebrity billionaire recently complained to me he couldn’t build a home cinema because his basement was occupied by his wine cellar and 25m pool. Beware.
Do keep investment-category wines, aimed at resale, in Octavian.
I keep my drinking wines in two garages which I have rented in a block nearby, and filled with wine cabinets. (A garage alone will not do for obvious reasons). There are 10
Cabinets in all, each holding between 100 and 200 bottles. I have had the garages, and the cabinets, for five years, and have yet to open a bottle of oxidised wine in that period.
Which brand of wine cabinet to buy?
My verdict is below, but before that, a caveat: perfect storage cannot cure a wine that is already dead. If you buy fine wine, buy it from the merchant who is the agent of the producer or from a trusted merchant with proven third-party sources. Otherwise it’s like buying a car with a missing service history. And if the wine has back or strip labels indicating export to Asia or the US, caveat emptor. What happened on that ship?
There are 3 big players in this game:
These are the big cabinets you see in restaurants and hotels.
Expensive, well-designed, easy to use with a mould for each wine bottle, and very well insulated. But the shelving in some models is too narrow for the oversized bottles flavoured by many producers, which can be frustrating or worse. Dual temperature-zone cabinets are a waste of money unless you are opening a wine bar. Best for the very best wines, and they look good inside your home, but pricey.
A relatively recent entrant into the UK market, flavoured by many French collectors. Ensure you get the optional sliding wooden shelves (not the fixed ones) and these are a joy to use. There is also a useful chalk marker to indicate what wines are where.
Climadiffs are intuitive and highly user-friendly, although they don’t have the smart finish options of the top EuroCave. My top choice for most of my wines: I will be buying more. The UK vendor Tangle wood Wine is family run by enthusiasts and provided excellent service.
Wine cabinets are a tiny part of this German company’s market but my long-term cellaring unit is entirely fit for purpose and vast inside. My unit doesn’t have sliding shelves, but this is fine as I use it for storing cases of wine for many years. Good value, great capacity and tough, but not aesthetically pleasing.
STORY BY: DARIUS SANAI
***Grabbed from: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/how-to-store-wine-correctly